City Commission candidate Boley wants city to focus on core services
photo by: Nick Krug
For Stuart Boley, some of the best conversations about local politics happen not behind the microphone at City Hall, but over a cup of coffee.
Boley, the lone incumbent candidate in the upcoming City Commission election, said that he goes to a monthly coffee meetup, hosted by Community Village Lawrence, and also has one-on-one conversations with residents — both scheduled and impromptu — at local coffee shops. Boley said while the people who show up during public comment at City Hall provide the commission certain perspectives, that he thinks it’s an important part of a commissioner’s job to get out and be accessible to more people. He said it’s helped him to do his job better.
Editor’s note: The Journal-World over the next several days will publish profiles on candidates for city and school board offices.
“It’s just this interaction, the ability to learn and understand in a different way,” Boley said of the informal conversations he has with the public. “You see how issues affect people more broadly than the people who are motivated or able to come and talk to us at the meeting.”
Boley was elected to the commission in 2015 and served as mayor last year. He said he was initially motivated to join the commission because he was concerned about the city’s finances. He said that over the past four years, the city has become more transparent, budgeted more comprehensively and began a new practice of rotating auditors after using the same firm for years. He said that means mistakes have been found, but that he sees that as process.
“We’ve had problems over the last four years with the accounts receivables, but we’ve been up front about it, we’ve been transparent, and we’re making really good progress with the finances,” Boley said.
Boley, who is a retired auditor with the Internal Revenue Service, said that he thinks the city needs to focus on continued improvement of its finances. In addition to the practice of regularly rotating auditors, Boley said he thinks the city needs to invest in better accounting software, replacing systems that he says are limited and outdated, and to continue prioritizing its budget. He said that with a new finance director and new city manager, the city is in a great position to improve.
Boley said two other issues he thinks the city should focus on are its core services and its relationship with community partners.
Boley said he considers public safety, infrastructure, and parks and recreation as the city’s core services, and that that the city needs to make sure those services are excellent and provided at reasonable costs. He said there are a lot of services to manage and infrastructure to maintain, and that the city needs to be sure to focus its attention in those areas.
“These are significant challenges for the city, and if we focus too much on things that are peripheral to the city’s mission, that’s a distraction away from these things that only the city will do,” Boley said. “I think it’s focusing on core services and that encompasses most of what the city does, with utilities, solid waste, stormwater, transportation. There’s a lot there and we lose our focus on that at our peril.”
He said that also plays into the city’s relationship with community partners, such as Douglas County and the Lawrence school district. He said the city needs to have good relationship with those partners and that funding agreements should be equitable for taxpayers. For instance, he said the city is paying $700,000 toward the community health department, which means city taxpayers essentially end up paying twice for that service, through both their city and county taxes.
“We need to understand what our role is, and make sure we are driving in our lane and focusing our resources on city responsibilities,” Boley said.
Originally from Lenexa, Boley earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and modern European studies from the University of Kansas. After working in different areas of the country, he returned to Lawrence in 1983. Boley, 65, retired in 2009 after working as an IRS auditor for 32 years. He served as the administrative officer of the Douglas County Community Foundation from 2011 to 2017.
The seats of commissioners Boley, Leslie Soden and Matthew Herbert are up for election this year, and both Soden and Herbert have announced they will not seek reelection. The general election will be Tuesday, Nov. 5.